Liposuction for Cankles & Lipoedema of the Lower Legs

What are Cankles?

Cankles describes the appearance of the lower leg where excess fatty tissue is present below the knee. The ankles may seem to merge with the calves rather than being clearly defined. It is often dismissed as obesity but cankles or lipoedema of the lower leg (alternate spelling: lipedema) is a condition of ‘immovable fat’ that cannot be exercised or dieted away. As lipoedema is a progressive disease, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the outcome.

What is Lipoedema of the Lower Legs?

Lipoedema is a condition characterised by the abnormal and excessive accumulation of fatty tissue, generally in the lower legs and thighs. Without treatment such as liposuction, the symptoms of lipoedema will grow progressively worse over time. Because it is a progressive condition, most patients suffering from lipoedema will eventually suffer from obesity, poor mobility, lower leg tenderness, and skin hypersensitivity as their condition progresses.

Even though 1 in 11 Australian women are believed to be suffering from debilitating lipoedema, until now, the treatment offered has only had a temporary effect and can be very costly and time-consuming.

Tumescent liposuction permanently removes existing fat, which significantly improves your quality of life by:

  • Optimising your mobility
  • Improvement in definition
  • Alleviating pain, discomfort, and swelling
  • Preserving lymphatic health and circulation of your legs
  • Avoiding long-term dependence on compression garments
  • Eliminating embarrassment and body issues by aligning the appearance of your limbs and achieving symmetry of the legs

Symptoms of Lipoedema

  • An abnormal and excessive accumulation of fatty tissue, generally in the lower legs and thighs
  • Your legs appear very swollen and have a ‘column-like’ appearance
  • The affected areas hurt and/or are sensitive to touch and bruise easily
  • You are finding it difficult to exercise, walk or participate in other physical aspects of daily life

Who is affected by Lipoedema?

Most patients suffering from lipoedema are female. Approximately 10-15% of the female population is affected.

Cankles/Lipoedema + Varicose Veins

Varicose vein disease is often present in conjunction with cankles/lipoedema and associated mild lymphedema. Varicose veins are abnormal veins located in the lower legs that are unable to effectively transport blood. As a result, blood begins to pool within varicose veins and begins to put unreasonable pressure on the lymphatic system which operates to drain fluid.

Treatment of Lipoedema of the lower legs/Cankles

We approach the treatment of cankles/lipoedema of the lower leg first by treating any underlying vein disease,
then using liposuction to permanently remove the existing fat.

1. Treating Vein Disease

All patients who suffer from lipoedema or lymphoedema receive mandatory varicose vein mapping scans. This detailed duplex ultrasound examination of the blood vessels of the legs will be conducted so that any underlying venous disease can be ruled out or promptly treated. Treatment for any vein abnormalities or varicose veins consists of laserradiofrequency ablationsclerotherapy, or medical glue before beginning any direct treatment of lipoedema.

Learn more about Varicose Veins

2. Liposuction for Cankles

Liposuction is then performed on the leg. This outpatient procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic, with minimal post-operative discomfort. Liposuction can help treat the symptoms of lipoedema that cannot be treated by diet and exercise alone.

Learn more about Liposuction

Liposuction for Lipoedema Summary

  • Procedure Time
    2-3 hours

  • Back to Work
    3-5 days

  • Local Anaesthetic
    Ensures better results, faster recovery, and less pain

  • Results in 3-5 days
    Results improve over 12 months

  • Minimal Side Effects
    Bruising, swelling, and local tenderness most common

Case Study

Severe lipoedema in the lower leg

This patient presented with moderate to severe lower leg lipoedema, with lymphatic congestion and early fibrotic change.
We treated with tumescent VASER liposuction under local anaesthesia and the patient was completely comfortable throughout. No IV or IM sedation was necessary. A total of 1300ml of supranatant fat was removed from each lower leg.
The after photo is from 3 days post liposculpture. Although there is some swelling setting in (which is common post lipo), the change in the shape of the leg is stark.